Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first message being sent over the internet.  On this date in 1969 a small team in a UCLA lab sent a message over a network of ARPANET computers. 

Once the concept was proven, ARPANET quickly exploded into today's global internet.

The internet is most famous for conveying the Illustrationart blog to a needy world.

However, some have expressed dismay that so much of the promising new technology is devoted to trading nekkid pictures.  Looking back, this was to be expected: in 1956, during the infancy of the computer age, the first human likeness to appear on a computer screen was a pin up illustration by George Petty:

Cathode ray tube screen of an experimental military computer developed to fight the cold war

1956 Esquire magazine calendar page by George Petty.  Va Va Voom.
As computer journalist Benj Edwards reported, "During a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government-defense budget to finance it, a young man used a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a curvy woman...." 

The technological revolution, from Polaroid cameras to betamaxes to camcorders to cell phones to blogs, has never strayed far from this central theme.  People now ask: Have all these tools corrupted our values by spreading such scandalous pictures?

33,000 years ago during the infancy of art, our ancestors used their new tool called "drawing" to decorate their cave with pictures of the human vulva.  In a riveting paper entitled, "Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France," a team of (male and female) scientists recently detailed how-- even without the benefit of the internet-- prehistoric people drew vulvae all over  the ceiling of their cave.  Another artist, lacking paper, etched a vulva on the molar of a woolly mammoth.

This urge wasn't limited to drawing; prehistoric sculpture followed the same theme-- the first known sculpture of a human was a naked female.

In light of this long tradition, it's surprising that the internet is ever used for anything besides naked pictures.

Okay, but you ask: what about the ominous future?  New artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies threaten to erode the distinction between truth and lie. These so-called deepfakes can falsify historical events and corrupt our political dialogue.   Spread over the internet they could start wars, topple governments, and undermine science... but apparently not just yet.  A recent survey indicates that 96% of deepfakes are not about any of these things, but rather about sex.  

Monday, October 21, 2019


I love this drawing by Tom Fluharty of George Bernard Shaw holding his dog.

Fluharty's famous drawing workshop came to our town last week.  I attended in the hope of learning how Fluharty achieves some of his marvelous effects, such as this ingenious beard:

But rather than coming away with magic tricks and special effects, I came away with something better: wisdom about the nature and challenges of drawing to help students invent their own special effects.

One of my favorite messages from Fluharty's demonstrations:

"Never coast just because you think you already know how hands look. Never punch the clock. Always continue to look for the story; hands are a story. Ears are another story.  Hair is a story. There's a story to tell everywhere; don't take anything for granted."

Sunday, October 06, 2019


It has been a while since I've shared another reason why I like the work of illustrator Robert Fawcett.

Even at the height of his career, Fawcett continued to sketch from the model every week.  At the end of each session, he'd open the lid of his model stand and toss in the day's efforts.  When he died, there were several hundred drawings stashed there.

One result of Fawcett's continuing commitment to observation is that when he illustrated a figure, he was not content with the usual simplistic shortcuts: symmetrical people standing perpendicular to the ground.  Instead, he observed that people are often bent or lopsided, reflecting life's tug of war between gravity and organic matter:   

One of the ways Fawcett's life drawing regimen paid off is when he received an assignment to depict a limp figure--  someone whose muscles went slack and who collapsed in a jumble-- Fawcett was able to capture such figures in a very convincing way.  Again, no stereotypes here.